Someone recently wrote and asked me, “What can I do to get my kids to quit fighting and get along with each other?” I’m not sure every family deals with this problem. I think a lot of it depends upon the temperament of the children but I know it was a regular battle in our home. Here are 4 things I found that worked.
First of all, did you know that Jesus’ brothers mocked and teased him? Even in the blessed mother’s home there was sibling strife. Even the miracle power of Jesus couldn’t stop it. In fact, his miracles were one of the things his brothers made fun of (John 7:2-5).
The fact that your kids provoke one another is nothing new. It goes back to the first two kids ever born. Remember, Cain killed Abel. Rejoice that it hasn’t gotten that bad at your house, yet.
When our kids were home we had lots of times when the kids got along perfectly – no arguing or bickering. Then it would be morning, they’d wake up and things would go downhill quickly.
I assumed that as they matured – by Middle school, or at the latest, High School – they would naturally outgrow the sibling bickering. I assumed wrong. As long as they lived together they found reason to pick at one another and squabble about something – everything(?).
Here’s the good news. At least two of Jesus’ brothers eventually repented and made peace with Jesus. (James and Jude – who both wrote books in the New Testament – were Jesus’ brothers who became believers after his resurrection.)
Thankfully it didn’t take a resurrection for my kids to get along. Amazingly, once they moved out of the house, they became each other’s biggest fans and cheerleaders.
So, here’s what I learned about helping my kids get along.
- Don’t be shocked.
It’s normal. Adam and Even, Joseph and Mary, Rick and Jana all had to endure sibling quarreling.
- Don’t tolerate it.
Though it’s normal it’s not acceptable. Never give up or consider it acceptable behavior. Just because our kids are related is no reason they can’t get along.
- Be brutally firm.
It’s worth the pain to confront it. I don’t believe our kids would be such friends today if I had not aggressively attacked their bickering. Sometimes I felt like a grouchy bear but I wouldn’t sit idly by and let them bite and claw each other verbally – or physically, of course. I would jump in and shut it down immediately.
I’m convinced that if I’d just watched them criticize and belittle each other without quickly putting a stop to it that:
1) they could have seen it as the normal and acceptable way to treat each other which would have naturally carried over into their adult behavior.
2) their harsh words toward each other could have created such deep resentment, perhaps even hatred, toward each other that it would not have easily or automatically dissolved just because they moved out to live on their own.
- Pray and don’t give up hope.
Even though the power of Jesus to heal the sick and raise the dead wasn’t enough to get his brothers to stop their sarcasm toward him, I still think we should pray that our kids learn to love and appreciate one another. Don’t give up. Keep that vision before you. It will happen.
A good passage to have kids copy a billion times when they’re mean to each other is
1 John 4: 20-21
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.