This picture was my favorite of all the pictures I took this Christmas.  We were in the middle of opening gifts at my parents’ house when Owen decided to find a nice little spot to sit on the fireplace.  He discovered these pictures of himself and his brothers and sat there and smiled and pointed to the photos of Aidan and Gresham.  Cute.

A lot cuter than the scene that plays out on a daily basis at our house!

I think that sibling conflict wears a mother down like nothing else.  There’s just something about not being able to start a load of laundry or even go to the bathroom without another fight erupting.  Or my personal favorite… buckling everyone into the van, running inside for the diaper bag, and hearing someone yelling to me before I can even get back to the van!  “Mo-om!  Gresham won’t leave the arm of the seat up and I want it UP!”  I just want to scream, “WHAT DOES IT MATTER????”  But that tactic never gets me very far…

A couple weeks ago, we had a horrible morning with sibling fighting.  The two older boys fought constantly all morning.  I was out of ideas.  In desperation, I sat them both down at the kitchen table, and we started reading James chapter 4.  I knew it was about conflict and wasn’t sure it would even relate to them, but something had to be done!  We started with verses 1-4 and learned that conflict comes from desiring things that we aren’t getting.  James is addressing mainly unbelievers here, and teaching that unfulfilled desires cause conflict within individuals and between individuals.

Writing things down has worked for us before, so we started to make a list of all the things the boys wanted that they weren’t getting.

Aidan’s List of Desires: (He came up with some of these, and agreed that all of them were true)

  • To be able to build a toy set-up without anyone wrecking it.
  • To be able to play without brothers being mean.
  • To not have to spend time working out conflict with Gresham – wants a quick fix.
  • To be able to make the rules in all games.
  • To decide what he will do and not do in school.

Then we listed how Aidan responds when he doesn’t get what he wants: (he thought of threats, which I didn’t even realize he was doing…)

  • Arguing
  • Threats – “If you don’t give me that, I won’t ever play with you!”
  • Anger
  • Throwing toys

Gresham’s list was similar, except that his sinful responses are different:  refusing to talk, more physical violence, and whining.

In James 4:4, is says “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?”  I thought it was interesting that James was linking conflict with worldliness.  We started realizing that the boys’ desires which lead to conflict are very worldly – desiring possessions, desiring to control other people, etc.

The solution is in James 4:6-7 – Humbling ourselves, submitting to God, and He will give us His grace.  In other words, the boys need new desires. They need to replace the sinful desires with desires that honor God.

For example, desiring that no one ever touch their toy set-up needs to be replaced with a desire to love their brothers (1 Cor. 13) and to obey God by doing what they can to be “at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).  The desire to avenge every little sin needs to be replaced with a willingness to overlook an offense, knowing that they too are often in need of forgiveness.

These are heart issues.  And heart issues are the work of the Holy Spirit.  I cannot change the heart desires of my children, but God can!  It is not my responsibility to make them respond in faith, but it is my responsibility to faithfully put God’s Word before them.

And I’m thankful for the moments of brotherly love that show up around our house…

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  1. mz liz Dec 29, 2010

    My sister and I fought A.LOT as children. We are just very, very different and didn't have a lot of guidance in finding what we had in common. Mom was having her own difficulties, so I'm sure that contributed to the way we dealt with things. Your boys are blessed to have a thoughtful and spiritually grounded mom like you.

    My sister and I are still very, very different, but we've learned when the other is deliberately provoking versus saying something without thinking. We now wish we lived closer so that we could do crafty things or church-related things together.

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    1. Crystal @ Intentional Homemaker Jun 23, 2011

      Our boys are approximately one year apart with the oldest being almost five, and they are the best of friends, but they fight what seems like ALL THE TIME! Over stuff that I cannot even believe matters, like you mentioned above. Thank you for this post. I'm at my wit's end, and this is a Scripture passage I hadn't thought of. Also, just sitting them down in the midst of fighting and reading the Bible. That may be a good attention-getter and attitude-adjuster for all of us... myself included!

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      1. Julie May 31, 2013

        How do I start when I have not done a good job of bringing my kids up from the beginning with Gods word and regular church attendance ? My kids bicker incessantly, but I so want to teach them to love one another and be close that God and family are #1 and I want them to love Gods people and be compassionate to the lost. I feel I have failed them so far. In my own interactions I find myself behaving in embarrassing ways..getting angry, using swear words. My husband is not much help either. God, please forgive me and show me ow to do this.

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        1. Sarah May 31, 2013

          Julie, What a sweet heart you have wanting to honor God and raise your child in a way that pleases Him! None of us are perfect parents - we are all sinners in need of His grace! I'm thankful that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, because without becoming His children we would all be a mess! I would say that depending on the ages of your children, I would apologize to them for any things that you feel like were wrong on your part, and tell them that you are going to do things God's way going forward, and that that will mean some changes. Make time to read the Bible with them, even if they don't seem to like it. My kids are not always enthusiastic about "Bible time" but insist on it anyway because God's word is what works in their hearts! And on our own hearts!

          ALL of us sin as moms! When that happens, don't be afraid to apologize to your kids and seek their forgiveness. It's not always easy to do (believe me, I've had experience with this...) but it is so important that we model what to do when we are wrong - that we seek God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of others.

          I would recommend reading the book "Give them Grace" by Elyse Fitzpatrick. She has so many good things to say about raising kids to love God, and not just "be good" on the outside.

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        2. Callie Jun 18, 2013

          This is balm for my aching soul! EXACTLLY what plays out at our house with my three boys! Thank you so much for this insight and encouragement! Just what I needed right now!

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          1. Dawn Jul 14, 2013

            Thank you so much for sharing, especially about your own feelings! The car issue happens for us all the time and there are times when I react just as you said. I'm going to write these verses on note cards to keep in the car as a reminder to all of us how to act!

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            1. jody Feb 25, 2015

              I to feel as Julie so many mistakes and now so many problems to iron out !! And when yr trying to homeschool as well you dont often get a break ! Work in our house seems to be the easy part but dealing with the attitudes and behavior is the hard part !!! Im most definitely going to get that book , "Give them grace," it looks great glad i read this post.

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              1. Kristy Feb 5, 2019

                Thank you so much for this encouragement. I really needed to hear another momma’s wisdom on sibling bickering and this feeds this tired Momma’s soul this morning. I know my kids dislike their fighting as much as I do, but they don’t understand why they do it—and have asked me why! Writing out their desires and their reactions may just be the best way to help them identify the heart of the problem. Thank you!

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