As I’ve written before, I think that sibling conflict is one of the most exhausting aspects of mothering.  Some days, it’s relentless!  And as I also said in this post, there is not an easy fix to sibling fighting.  The way I see it, there are two aspects to our approach as moms. Sometimes, we just need to manage behavior.  Siblings need to be physically separated for a while, rules need to be made, etc.  But then there is also the most important aspect – the spiritual training.  Our kids need to be grounded in what God has to say about human relationships.  They need to learn what the Bible says, and they need to be instructed by example in what it means to live it out.

Recently, I came across some encouragement in this task in a very interesting place…

Teaching Siblings About Loving Each Other

This school year, we are going through Sonlight Core F, which is all about the cultures of the Eastern Hemisphere.  We started off by reading a missionary biography called Torches of Joy, which tells the story of John and Helen Dekker and their work with the Dani people of Netherlands New Guinea in the 1960’s (Amazon affiliate link).  The Dekkers entered an area of the world in which the native people were still living in the Stone Age.  They were confronted with the task of explaining God’s word to people who had a very limited understanding of the world.

Because the Dani people believed that they originated from a large crack in the earth, John had to teach them about the Creator and what it meant that they were created in His image.  And as he taught them about what the Creator did in sending His Son to pay for their sin, lives began to change.  I was really struck by the fact that being created in God’s image really affected the Danis’ daily lives.

“The Danis began to understand that those made in the image of God are kind to their neighbor whether he is kind or not.  If a neighbor’s pig falls into a pit, God’s children pick it up.  Acts of kindness were no longer to obligate the other person so that he would help in return.

‘God’s children are kind and loving, not for what they can get out of it but to show the character of God,’ John reminded his listeners again and again.

Torches of Joy p. 94

For those of us who have grown up in the church, it’s easy to gloss over the fact that we are created in God’s image and see it as something that is true, but not necessary for everyday life.  But honestly, without this reference point, instruction to our kids is nothing more than morality!

We can make it about the nobility of doing the right thing (manners for manners’ sake):

“You should be nice!  See, isn’t it better when we’re nice?”

“You don’t really want to take that from your brother, right?  It’s more fun when everyone has a toy!”

Or about the irritation that their actions are causing us:

“Your fighting is driving me crazy!  I can’t stand another minute of this bickering!  Why can’t you just be kind?”

But really, it needs to be about the fact that God created us.  We are His children.  He made us His children, not so that we could go our own way, but so that we could reflect His character.  When we ask our children to love each other in light of the love that God has shown for us, life makes sense!  Our requests are rooted in the truth.

“Son, I know that what your brother did was not kind and that you are hurt.  But God showed His kindness to us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us (Romans 5:8).  I know it’s really hard, but God will help you to respond with love if you ask Him to.”

“Son, I know that your brother has been a pest today.  But it would be great if you would reflect God’s character by reading him some books anyway.  Think of it as serving the Lord.”

“Boys, we need to speak with kind words because God always speaks with words that are good.  He created us to be like Him.”

I am working on changing the way that I talk to my boys.  Not every conversation will have spiritual benefit, of course, but I’m working on pointing them to God’s character rather than simply to human reasons for morality.  Will you join me in this challenge?

More on sibling relationships:

Biblical Boyhood:  Brothers as Friends

Sibling Squabbles and the Kindness Car

Dealing with Sibling Fighting and Rudeness – A lesson from Proverbs about rude words

Dealing with Tattling

9 Comments

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  1. Michele Sep 10, 2013

    Good lesson. Thanks for all the hard work and openness you put into this site. I have really found a lot of helpful and encouraging information. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Anna Sep 11, 2013

      Thanks for these words... very timely... I have been following your blog for a little while now and enjoy all your posts... thanks for writing!
      Anna

      Reply
      1. Casey Leyva Sep 11, 2013

        This is a great word, not only for siblings, but cousins and friends as well! We live in a community house, and I will try to encourage our children towards kindness in this way. Thank you!

        Reply
        1. Susan Sep 18, 2013

          I'm not sure how I stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago, but I'm SO glad I did. You have the best bible lessons that are so easy for kids (and me!) to understand. Thank you for posting these. I already shared the one about the heart of stone with my kids. I didn't tell them we were doing a bible lesson, I just told everyone to get a stone and divided up some play dough. They each made something with their dough and we guessed what it was. Then I told them to make something with their stones. They looked at me confused, and I was able to read the verse and talk about it. So great to get their attention in a hands on way.
          AND not to mention your activities for boys (and girls, too) are SO FUN!! We played with our hexbug for hours trying to make a maze for him. The legos were too time consuming for my short attention span kids, so we simply used blocks. We started calling the hex bug a 'little weasel' as he would escape from any little corner. So the kids built up more and more blocks to keep him in. Very fun. THANK YOU!

          Reply
          1. Anna Sep 24, 2013

            I am a nanny of two boys (ages 5 and 7) and I have been attempting to do exactly what you wrote above! It's so encouraging to hear that other moms (or caregivers) are struggling with the same things I am. The parents of these boys are not believers, so they have never really heard the name of Jesus before in their lives. We have been working on "loving our brother" (I cannot count how many times I repeat this phrase in a given day!). Thanks for writing!!

            Reply
            1. Joanne Oct 15, 2013

              I found your website by "mistake", I am pretty sure I was lead in your direction by God. I have one son, the baby, and three older daughters; and I am also divorced from their father, which makes everything so rough. Thanks for all of your information that you have shared.

              Reply
              1. Happy Home Fairy Nov 5, 2013

                This was a blessing! God has given you a true gift! I truly loved this fresh perspective and plan on focusing more on guiding my children to reflect the character of God. Thank you from a mom of 2 boys (one of whom slammed his younger brother's head into the dining room table tonight). #ivegotsomeworktodo :-)

                Reply
                1. Bria Bare Jan 29, 2014

                  To:Frugal

                  Just came across your blog on Pinterest. Gotta say, your "season" of life
                  Is strangely similar my own. I have two boy, homeschool, w a dog and I teach private music lessons. To top it off, if the picture is current I TOO am a redhead! So funny! Just living, the few posts I've had the chance to read, those on Self Control, sibling kindness, boys n guns. I am getting great encouragement from your tips and experience. Thanks for the blessing that is your writing!

                  Reply
                  1. Allison hendrix Aug 24, 2014

                    I love this post!!! Sharing now.

                    Reply

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